TEN MAN COLLS FIGHT BACK FOR A DESMOND

Atherton Collieries 2 AFC Blackpool 2

By Matt Lawton

Mark Ayres scored a last minute penalty to grab an unlikely point at Alder House for ten man Colls against an AFC Blackpool side who thought they’d done enough to secure a vital three points in their battle against relegation from the North West Counties League Premier Division. Having conceded a late equaliser to nine man promotion rivals Colne on Thursday night, there was something of an ironic twist in Michael Clegg’s side securing a point in similar circumstances on Saturday afternoon, though with weekend victories for both Colne and Runcorn Linnets it looks as though the black and whites will have to be content with a top four finish, though that in itself represents a tremendous achievement for a side playing in their first season at Premier Division level.

With the annual ritual of trying to accommodate a raft of rearranged fixtures starting to kick in, Clegg shuffled his pack ahead of a fourth game in seven days and handed a goalkeeping debut to Kyle Haslam ahead of Adam Reid, while Kristian Holt, Matt Grimshaw, Mark Truffas, Brad Cooke, Jordan Cover and Jonathan Hurst were introduced to the starting line up to replace James Ball, Mark Ayres, Dave Sherlock, Vinny Bailey, Ben Hardcastle and Justin Pickering.

Colls were out of the blocks quickly and first threatened on five minutes when Jake Kenny dinked the ball into the edge of the box for Mark Battersby to volley a shot on the turn and force a decent save from AFC Blackpool goalkeeper Adam Caunce. Caunce found himself rather less well placed only a minute later when he appeared to completely lose his bearings on the edge of the penalty area and left himself wide open for Jordan Cover to loop the ball over him and in to the net after being played in on goal by Brad Cooke to put the hosts a goal to the good.

That lead lasted only three minutes when a Tangerines shot struck Haslam’s crossbar and rebounded fortuitously for Boubacar Kaba to hook home an equaliser.

Mark Battersby thought he’d done enough to put Colls back in front on twenty nine minutes when his near post header beat Caunce from a Hurst corner only to be hacked off the line by Blackpool defender Stephen Betteridge. Betteridge found himself dispossessed by Jordan Cover on the edge of the area four minutes later, but the Colls front man wasted the opening and blasted the ball over the bar. Cover came much closer to restoring the Colls lead with eight minutes of the first half remaining when he nudged the ball past Caunce only for the ball to hit the goalkeeper’s left hand post and rebound away to safety, leaving Colls frustratingly level at the break.

The woodwork once again came to the visitors’ rescue seven minutes in to the second half when Brad Cooke saw a twenty five yard strike deflected on to the crossbar before Caunce did well to tip wide Kristian Holt’s attempt from the rebound.

With Colls looking to get their noses back in front, the game was turned on its head on sixty four minutes when a neat interchange between Zackery Wilkes and Aaron Fleming saw the latter brought down in the penalty area by Matt Grimshaw, who was somewhat harshly shown a red card by the referee as a result. Jack Williams stepped up to send Haslam the wrong way from the resultant spot kick and all of a sudden there were repercussions at both ends of the table.

Clegg was inevitably left to reorganise his side to cope with the numerical disadvantage and introduced Mark Ayres for Mark Truffas to restore a four man defence while also bringing on Dave Sherlock for Jonathan Hurst and James Kirby for Mark Battersby.

Cooke came within inches of an equaliser with fifteen minutes remaining when he headed wide from a Gareth Peet cross, and it seemed as though it wouldn’t be a day to remember for the hosts. The game ticked towards stoppage time when Cover was presented with virtually an open goal but somehow managed to slice his shot and saw it merely trickle to the relieved Caunce as he recovered his position.

It took only seconds however for Colls’ luck to change when Blackpool right back Paul Carroll bundled over Gareth Peet in the area and centre back Ayres sent Caunce the wrong way from the spot to clinch an unlikely point.

Alder House is again the venue for Colls’ next outing this coming Monday (25th April, 7.45pm) when Nelson are the visitors for ‘Pay What You Want’ day before a lengthy Thursday night trip to Alsager Town (28th April, 8pm).

Atherton Collieries; Kyle Haslam, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Kristian Holt, Matt Grimshaw, Callum Jones, Mark Truffas (Mark Ayres 65), Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby (James Kirby 68), Jordan Cover, Jonathon Hurst (Dave Sherlock 65). Subs (not used); Ben Hardcastle, Andrew Heald

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